Honors Program

The department offers students the option of pursuing a degree with Honors in Chinese, Japanese, or East Asian Languages and Cultures through writing an honors thesis. Honors theses allow students a unique opportunity to undertake an examination of topics and texts with a greater depth than regular courses allow.  The great majority of students who undertake the challenge of writing an honors thesis find it to be one of their most rewarding academic experiences at Williams.


Students interested in pursuing a degree with Honors should begin thinking about their thesis topic and materials as early as possible. This is particularly true for students who need to gather materials or conduct research abroad, as this will typically take place during their junior year or the summer between their junior and senior years. It is the responsibility of the student to approach faculty members to inquire about their willingness to serve as a thesis advisor. Ideally, students should have previously taken a course with that faculty member in an area related to the subject matter of the thesis. Faculty members will usually only advise a single thesis per year, and never more than two, with students who first approach the faculty member about serving as advisor being given priority. It is recommended that students approach the faculty members with whom they are interested in working for their thesis by the end of the fall semester of their junior year.

Students must submit a proposal to the department chair and their intended advisor before they pre-register for senior year courses in the spring of their junior year. The proposal should include a statement of the topic, a general description of the types of materials available for study and how the study will be carried out, and the name of the faculty member who will serve as advisor. If the department approves the thesis proposal, the student should enroll in CHIN 493-W31-494, or JAPN 493-W31-494, depending on their major track. Please note that admission to the honors thesis program will normally be limited to students with a consistent record of honors-level work, as indicated by at least a B+ average in their courses for the major.

The Thesis

The honors thesis is intended to be a rigorous and original scholarly work of approximately 80 to 120 pages that makes use of both primary and secondary sources. Students should make substantial use of sources in the Chinese or Japanese language that have not been translated into English.  Theses can be either primarily analytic or focus on translation. In the latter case, the student, in consultation with his or her advisor, should select a work or set of works of a length that will result in approximately 80 to 120 pages of double-spaced English text when translated. Students pursuing the option of a translation thesis are required to produce polished translations with substantial scholarly annotations. They should also include an analytic section of at least 40 pages that involves a scholarly discussion of the translated works, a discussion of particular issues in the process of translation of these works, or both.

The Process

Students will typically meet with their advisor once a week at a set time other than office hours. The advisor will present the student with a set of deadlines for different stages in the thesis, ranging from a bibliography to the final draft. While these deadlines will vary for different advisors and theses, two deadlines will apply to all theses, whether analytic or translation. 1) Students must submit a finished first chapter or a substantial section of polished translation by the last day of the first semester reading period. If the student misses this deadline, he or she will not be allowed to continue the thesis. 2) The finished thesis is due to the advisor by 4:00 pm on the Monday two weeks after the last day of Spring Recess. The student should submit three copies of the thesis at this time. There will be no extensions.

The department will assign a reader, separate from the advisor, to each thesis. The reader will give a written assessment of the thesis that will be an important factor in the final determination of the student’s grades for the thesis and what honors designation, if any, will be given. These written comments will be shared with the student. Within two weeks after submission, the department will schedule an oral defense. This will be a one to one-and-a-half hour session in which the student will give a public presentation of his or her thesis to members of the department and invited guests followed by a question and answer period. A final, corrected copy of the thesis must be submitted to the Technical Services Department of Sawyer Library by 4:00 P.M. on the last day of the final examination period.

In order to qualify for Honors, the department must agree that the student has earned two semester grades of B+ or higher, based on his or her thesis and oral defense. Students whose thesis and defense are deemed by the department to be of exceptional merit will be awarded Highest Honors. A letter from the department chair will inform students of these decisions.

Past Thesis Projects

Below is a list of thesis projects completed by department majors, advised by DALLC faculty.